Corn Commentary

Hoosiers Mourn Loss of Indiana Corn Leader

indiana-cornHoosiers are mourning the loss of Indiana Corn Marketing Council President Gary Lamie who died unexpectedly on Friday at age 52.

For the past 10 years, Lamie has served in leadership roles for various organizations including president of the Indiana Corn Growers Association and vice chair for research and business development with the National Corn Growers Association. He traveled extensively with these groups, planning strategy and conferring with elected officials in Indianapolis and Washington, D.C. He was instrumental in helping establish Indiana’s corn check-off program. Gary was also a strong champion for the Purdue Student New Uses Corn Contest that encourages college students to find innovative new uses for corn, and his farm was a frequent stop for students and international trade teams. In 2008 he was selected to represent Indiana in the Syngenta “Leadership At It’s Best” program.

“He was an exceptional farmer, leader and friend to many, and we will miss him dearly,” said Jane Ade Stevens, Executive Director of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council. “Our sincere condolences are with his wife Kathleen and the entire Lamie family.”

How Drought Hit Trend Yields

Most of us know where the drought hit the hardest last year, but it’s always more interesting to see it in living color.

The University of Illinois’ FarmDoc Daily did just that by comparing state corn yields last year with trend yields, showing how much yields were reduced in the most drought-stricken areas. You can click on the map below to see a larger version.

corn-yields

The map highlights how the lowest yields were in Kentucky (47 percent of trend) and Missouri (53 percent) and Indiana and Illinois came in at about 62 percent of trend. Much of the rest of Corn Belt saw yields around 75 percent of the trend line. Minnesota and North Dakota had yields close to trend, while most states in the Southeast had above trend yields. Georgia was 24% above trend and South Carolina was 31%, which would be great if those states were not generally ranked in the bottom half of corn growing states. New York and Maryland grow more corn than Georgia and South Carolina.

University of Illinois ag economist Gary Schnitkey, who did the map, says as bad as it was, the drought could have been worse.

“In some senses, though, the US dodged a bullet with the 2012 drought,” said Schnitkey. “Much lower total supplies would have resulted had the center of the drought occurred in eastern Iowa and northern Illinois. A center here would have impacted all of the corn-belt in a much worse way, potentially causing the western corn-belt to have as low of yields as the eastern corn-belt. As it actually occurred, Iowa and other western corn-belt state were not as badly hit as could have been the case.”

Read his summary here.

The Sequester Monster

axe-sequesterThe impending deadline for “sequestration” has taken on the character of a looming cataclysmic event or awakening of a sleeping monster in a horror movie – a monster with an axe aimed at all government spending.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called sequester one of the “man-made” risks facing agriculture right now. “You all know that March 1 will come, and if it comes before Congress has acted that the sequester will be triggered, and what that will mean for USDA is every line item, virtually every line item, of our budget will have to be reduced by a certain percentage, and that percentage could be somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 to 6 percent,” Vilsack said during the opening of USDA’s annual Ag Outlook Conference this week. “And that’s an annual percentage, which means we have to implement this reduction in the remaining portion of the fiscal year, which will be approximately 6 months. That means it is really the impact of the effect of a 10-to-12-percent reduction of our remaining resources, and unlike normal circumstances where the Congress will direct you to reduce funding but give you the flexibility to choose where and how, this is a direct prescription from Congress to reduce every line item by the same percentage.”

Vilsack added that the next deadline facing Congress on March 27 also creates a man-made risk for farmers. “If Congress has not continued the budget process and provided a continuation of the Continuing Resolution or passed a budget, theoretically all government activity stops, and that, of course, would impact our trade promotion efforts. It would impact food safety. It would impact the ability to provide credit to farmers right at the time when they have to finalize the credit opportunities to put their crop in the ground. This is another risk that’s manmade and can be avoided,” said Vilsack.

The sequester monster is coming on March 1 – watch for the sequel “Son of Sequester” coming March 27.

CommonGround Volunteers Show How Farming in the Snow Is No Cake Walk

Most consumers associate the cold, wintery weather that swept the country this week with staying indoors and keeping warm. Envisioning farming as a sunny day, warm weather gig, they often forget that farmers work to care for their land and livestock 365 days a year.

As snow and ice reign down on the roads, keeping kids home from school and adults stuck in traffic, many farmers are also vigilantly protecting their farms and their animals from the dangerous conditions.

Today, Corn Commentary features a guest blog post and a letter to the editor penned by CommonGround volunteers about how they care for cattle when the temperatures drop. Consumers worried about animal welfare can take heart. These farm women are taking action out of concern for their cattle, just like farmers across the country.

First, Sara Ross, a CommonGround Iowa volunteer, walks blog readers through what her and her husband do to prepare for a winter storm.

Preparing the Cattle for the Big Snowstorm

Sara and her husband, Kevin, prepare their cattle for an oncoming snow.

Sara and her husband, Kevin, prepare their cattle for an oncoming snow.

Everyone’s been talking about it all week…the big snow storm.  First it was suppose to start Wednesday night then it got pushed back to Thursday morning then Thursday around noon.  I’ve heard anywhere from 6-18 inches of snow forecasted.  Normally it would be all fun and games to be snowed in, but since we have cattle, we had to get them prepared for the storm.

Kevin wanted to move the cows from across the road, where they were out on cornstalks, to our side of the road where they would have more protection and be easier to feed and water.  We are a few weeks away from calving, but you never know when a big snow storm hits what will happen!

So, first thing this morning Kevin and I headed outside to get the cows moved to our side of the road.

To read the full post, click here.

CommonGround Nebraska volunteer Joan Ruskamp, who is well familiar with many of the questions consumers have about farming in the winter. She penned the editorial piece below To help answer questions she had seen in local papers.

Baby, it’s cold outside…but there’s still plenty to do on the farm

About this time every year, I begin to get surprised looks from people when I talk about all the activities happening on my family’s farm near Dodge, Neb. Together with my husband, we feed cattle and raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa. While the crops may not require a great deal of attention in the winter months, animal care on our farm is a top priority 365 days a year.

One of my many responsibilities includes walking through the cattle every morning, no matter the weather conditions, to make sure each animal is healthy. If an animal is sick and needs to be treated with antibiotics, we always adhere to label use under the supervision of our veterinarian.  We also adhere to strict withdrawal times, or a set number of days that must pass between the last antibiotic treatment and the animal entering the food supply. And even though cattle have hair coats designed to handle living outdoors, in the cold winter months, we take extra care to make sure they are as comfortable as possible.

We provide extra bedding and windbreaks to help block the extreme cold. And in addition to shoveling our driveway during a snowstorm, we must remove or pile snow in the pens so that the cattle have dry places to lie down. We also must make sure that even during a snowstorm; the cattle are fed at their normal times with continuous access to water.

So, even though the winter weather might make you want to stay bundled up inside, know that farmers are braving the elements to make sure the animals are well cared for – because healthy animals equal healthy food for our families.

Sincerely,

Joan Ruskamp, farmer, Dodge, Neb.

Fuel By Any Other Name

It’s been called alcohol, gasohol, and ethanol, among other names – but could a different moniker help improve the image of plant-based fuel?

nec13-divallThe founder of a widely respected public opinion research firm suggests that calling ethanol a “biofuel” more often might be better.

“Biofuel is seen as a more futuristic energy source than saying the word ethanol,” American Viewpoint president Linda DiVall said. “There are very positive images associated with biofuels.”

DiVall presented findings from a poll on consumer views of ethanol commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) at the National Ethanol Conference last week. “The ethanol industry has a compelling narrative to advance to consumers — it significantly reduces greenhouse gases, lowers our dependence on foreign oil, creates quality jobs, reduces fuel costs for Americans, and is serving to advance further innovations in renewable fuels.”

Listen to DiVall explain in this interview: Linda DiVall at NEC 2013

Will Drought Continue in 2013?

The good news is that the overall drought area in the U.S. is continuing to decline from week to week. The bad news is that 2013 may be even drier than 2012 was.

The latest U.S. drought monitor shows less than 56% of the country in drought now, the lowest point since last July. “It’s also a decline of 5.36% since the beginning of the year and we’re down almost 10% from the peak in 2012,” said USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey. “It is noticeable change but the problem is we’ve really been struggling to chip away at the drought right at the core.”

pulwarty“The forecast for this season is that in fact, we are predicting drier conditions,” said Dr. Roger Pulwarty, Director of the National Integrated Drought Information System at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, during a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing last week.

Pulwarty emphasized that the big problem last year was the heat exacerbating the drought. “The major issue in the Midwest and the Southwest, Colorado Basin in particular, is that we are having back-to-back dry years and a third year of that puts our systems completely under stress,” he said.

hearing-farmerIndiana farmer Anngie Steinbarger was one of four producers on a panel who explained just how bad the drought was last year. “Our average yields are 150 bushels for corn,” she said, explaining that their decision to add an irrigation pivot on 35 acres of really sandy soil is what helped them get a crop last year. “Under the pivot was close to 200 bushels per acre and outside of the pivot was 10 bushels per acre,” said Steinbarger, adding that “The number one barrier to increasing our yields is lack of water.”

Irrigation helped the Steinbargers meet their contracts but it was crop insurance that helped them survive. “We paid a substantial premium for crop insurance and that decision is keeping us in business for the 2013 crop year,” Steinbarger said.

Sweet News about Your Valentine’s Day Sweets

Today, Corn Commentary offers a guest post from blogger Sara Ross, a CommonGround Iowa volunteer. Ross, along with 85 volunteers in 15 states, is participating in a movement that looks to open a conversation between the women who grow food and those why purchase it.

CommonGround was formed by the National Corn Growers Association, the United Soybean Board and their state affiliates to provide our nation’s female farmers with opportunities to connect with their urban and suburban counterparts on an issue important to all of them – the food they feed their families.

Corn HeartIt’s Valentine’s Day.  It’s a day of love, flowers, presents, candy and high fructose corn syrup….

Wait….what???

Yes, high fructose corn syrup will be present on Valentine’s Day in many of your candies and soft drinks.  Not to worry though!  In this post I’m going to clear up some common myths and misconceptions about this hot topic. Misconception 1:  High fructose corn syrup is bad for you.
Answer:  High fructose corn syrup has almost the same composition as table sugar, honey and fruit juices like grape and apple.  “When high fructose corn syrup and sugar are absorbed into our bloodstream, the two are indistinguishable by the body,” Joan Salge Blake, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.  Sugar is sugar and all of it should be consumed in moderation.

Misconception 2:  High fructose corn syrup is not natural.
Answer:  This is not true.  HFCS is made from corn, a naturally occurring food.  It contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives.  It also meets the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s requirements for use of the term “natural.”

Misconception 3:  High fructose corn syrup is causing wide-spread obesity in the United States.
Answer:  In 2008 the American Medical Association (AMA) concluded that HFCS does not appear to contribute more to obesity than any other caloric sweeteners.  “At this time there is insufficient evidence to restrict the use of high fructose syrup or label products that contain it with a warning,” said AMA Board Member William Dolan, MD. “We do recommend consumers limit the amount of all added caloric sweeteners to no more than 32 grams of sugar daily based on a 2,000 calorie diet in accordance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

“The real issue is not high fructose corn syrup. It’s that we’ve forgotten what a real serving size is. We have to eat less of everything,”stated David Klurfeld, Ph.D, from the Agricultural Research Service at the USDA.

Misconception 4:  High fructose corn syrup is used only as a sweetener in food and beverages.
Answer:  HFCS is a popular ingredient for many manufacturers.  Here are some of the ways it is used:

  • As a liquid, it is easily incorporated into beverages and also stays in solution better— making a higher quality product.
  • As a form of invert sugar, fructose combines with protein in the presence of heat to give browning—toasted bread is an example. Because it has a higher amount of fructose, HFCS provides better browning in baked products.
  • Using HFCS instead of granular sugar helps lock in moisture in baked products. This extends shelf life by keeping the baked product fresher for a longer time period. This same moistness also gives cookies and snack bars a softer texture.
  • Because it is a syrup (rather than granules), the fructose and glucose molecules do not form undesired crystals in candies and ice cream—giving those foods a smoother mouth feel and a more desirable product.
  • HFCS contributes thickness, or viscosity, to condiments and salad dressings.

When doing some research on candy companies and what their stances are about HFCS, I found thatThe Hershey Company says this, “The Hershey Company uses a variety of sweeteners to deliver products with well-known tastes and textures while maintaining our high quality standards. Different types of sweeteners are better suited for different types of products. High fructose corn syrup, although used sparingly, provides better functional properties in selected products.”

When I looked to Pepsi Co to see what their stance is on HFCS I found that they say, “HFCS and table sugar have the same calories and sweetness so the decision to use one or the other is based on a variety of other factors. For example, HFCS is an easier ingredient to work with because it is a liquid. It also costs less than table sugar which helps us keep the cost of our products down for consumers. However, since some consumers prefer beverages sweetened with table sugar, we give people choices in the different products we make.”

With all this information about HFCS, just remember that sugar is sugar and while eating candy on Valentine’s Day, moderation is the key!

This post originally ran on the blog Sara’s House HD.

To learn more about the CommonGround program or connect with it through social media, click here.

Vilsack Biofuels Pep Talk

nec13-vilsackAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hit two meetings in one city last week, appearing at both the National Ethanol Conference and the National Biodiesel Conference in Las Vegas and serving as the biofuels industry cheerleader to rally the troops in an uncertain time.

“A critical component to the success of rural America is in the renewable fuel and energy industry,” Vilsack said. “You are responsible for increasing farm income.”

The secretary acknowledged that the Renewable Fuel Standard is under attack. “You have to ask yourself, why all these challenges?” Vilsack asked. “The reason is that you are winning.”

Vilsack told both groups that the renewable fuels industry is worth fighting for. “Your country’s future depends on it,” he said. “It’s that important. That’s why I’m here – I firmly believe it.”

Watch the Secretary’s address at the NEC below:

Video streaming by Ustream

Listen to his speech to the ethanol conference here: Vilsack at NEC


2013 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

What’s in My Beef?!?!

Today, Corn Commentary offers a guest post from blogger Lana Hoffschneider, a CommonGround Nebraska volunteer. Hoffschneider, along with 85 volunteers in 15 states, is participating in a movement that looks to open a conversation between the women who grow food and those why purchase it.

CommonGround was formed by the National Corn Growers Association, the United Soybean Board and their state affiliates to provide our nation’s female farmers with opportunities to connect with their urban and suburban counterparts on an issue important to all of them – the food they feed their families.

lana-kidsAnyone else feel overwhelmed by the quantity of information out there about food and food safety? I’ve recently been on a quest to increase my knowledge about food safety, and feel like now I can’t eat anything!! I swear there’s a study out there to prove anything. So how do we sort out the information… the studies, the food labels, the facebook posts, the news stories, what our friends tell us, etc?!?! I can’t promise I have the answer to that… but I’ll give you my take on it! Read on…

Since we have a feedyard, I’m going to direct my comments to beef, and hopefully answer some of your questions about what you’re eating. I’m not a nutritionist, I’m not a scientist, and I’m not a meat processor, but I can tell you what happens at our feedyard.

One common concern about beef is hormones. Yes, we give our cattle implants (they go under the skin on the outside of the ear). The main active ingredient is estrogen. The implants are given to increase feed efficiency and rate of gain. From the information I have read, yes – some of the hormone passes into the meat, but no – it’s not at high levels. in fact, check this out:

  • 4 oz. beef from steer given hormones: 1.6 nanograms of estrogen
  • 4 oz. beef from untreated steer: 1.2 nanograms of estrogen
  • 4 oz. beef from non-pregnant heifer: 1.5 nanograms of estrogen
  • 4 oz. raw cabbage: 2700 ng estrogen
  • 4 oz. raw peas: 454 ng estrogen
  • Average level in a woman of childbearing age: 480,000 nanograms/day of estrogen
  • Average level in a pre-pubertal girl: 54,000 nanograms/day of estrogen

So – I’m not worried about that. Period.

Next, how about shots… vaccinations, antibiotics, etc?

Our veterinarian giving vaccinations to a steer.

Our veterinarian giving vaccinations to a steer.

First of all, I think you might like to know that all shots go in the neck region of the animal.  This prevents any needle damage in the meat.

Second, you need to know that there are specific “withdrawal times” that antibiotics have – which means an animal cannot be harvested until after a specified number of days of receiving the antibiotic.   And yes – our cattle receive antibiotics (administered by a veterinarian).  It’s the right thing to do – we take care of our animals when they’re sick! Here’s a great blog post about this… Antibiotics in beef farming.

So I’m not worried about that. Period.

The last thing I want to hit on is regarding the talk about meat causing heart disease, cancer, and whatever else.  I understand that doctors give special instructions on diet for particular situations – listen to them.   If that’s not you – then here’s what I think.   MODERATION – everything in moderation.

We eat beef from cattle from our feedyard.  I feed it to my family.  We have 2 daughters – yes, I think about hormones and early puberty and the thought freaks me out on a lot of levels.  But I don’t change the meat we eat or the milk we drink because of it – I don’t think that’s what causes early puberty.

If you’re like me, and feel frustrated about information about our food… just keep in mind that there are so many health benefits in a variety of foods.   If you want to get radical about something, get radical about the amount of sugar you eat and the amount of processed/fried foods you eat.  Then eat a variety of foods, in moderation.

I think of it like weight loss.  There’s no magic “meal pill” that will be a perfect meal for your body just like there’s no perfect “diet pill”.  It’s not rocket science.  To lose weight, eat less and exercise (in most cases).  Same with making food choices – eat in moderation, and eat a variety.  No sense in getting overwhelmed and freaked out!

Now go eat some meat!

These steaks may not be what I would consider moderation, but you can always share:)

These steaks may not be what I would consider moderation, but you can always share:)

This post originally ran on the CommonGround Nebraska blog.

To learn more about the CommonGround movement, click here.

Confessions of a GMO Convert

lynasA leading environmental activist and critic of genetically modified food recently announced the error of his ways and his conversion to being a supporter of biotech crops.

“I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment,” said author and activist Mark Lynas during an address last month to the Oxford Farming Conference.

Lynas explained his change of heart towards GM by saying, “I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.”

In his one hour address to the conference, Lynas made a strong appeal to both the environmental community and governments to see the importance of safe biotech crops in feeding a growing population, invoking the sacred name of Norman Borlaug, father of the Green Revolution.

Before Borlaug died in 2009 he spent many years campaigning against those who for political and ideological reasons oppose modern innovation in agriculture. To quote: “If the naysayers do manage to stop agricultural biotechnology, they might actually precipitate the famines and the crisis of global biodiversity they have been predicting for nearly 40 years.”

And, thanks to supposedly environmental campaigns spread from affluent countries, we are perilously close to this position now. Biotechnology has not been stopped, but it has been made prohibitively expensive to all but the very biggest corporations.

Worth reading, watching and quoting.



Page 29 of 179« First...1020...2728293031...405060...Last »